Stem cell defects

The programming of human skin cells into protean stem cells is one of the most important pieces of science news in recent years. They are called iPS cells, and the goal is to make them a personal source of spare cells.

Stem cell defects

Converting cells into stem cells is based on the re-activation of some genes which have become inactive during ontogenesis. In the activation, the reading of all genes is re-programmed. The process is not yet understood in detail, and the risks related to it have not been properly identified.

In the journal Nature published on 3 March, Finnish and Canadian researchers show that the production of iPS cells involves the problem of genetic modifications. The majority of re-programmed stem cells includes mutations created in the process. Although most of the exceptional cells are destroyed in the cell cultures, some mutations remain and may modify the cell features.

– Our findings do not decrease the significance of iPS stem cells in studying human diseases. However, our findings highlighted the safety challenges related to the use of cells for treatment purposes, says Professor Timo Otonkoski at the University of Helsinki.

This means that before treatment planning, it is important to verify that the re-programmed cells are genetically normal, and Otonkoski hopes this will become possible through more advanced technology.

The methods for re-programming cells also develop rapidly, and one important goal is to minimise the genetic damage to the cells.

In addition to the Helsinki-based researchers and those from the Samuel Lunenfeld Institute, the research, led by Otonkoski in Helsinki and Professor Andras Nagy in Canada, was contributed to by the Turku Centre for Biotechnology.

Nature » »

Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute » »

Turku Centre for Biotechnology » »

Text: Päivi Lehtinen
Photo: Linda Tammisto
3.3.2011
Translation: AAC Global
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